Unofficial Commencement Tips

Every year, I try to provide some unofficial tips for our P’16 parents and families coming for Commencement.   I am assuming, of course, that everyone has referenced the Commencement web site, looked at the FAQ for parents, etc.

So here is my $0.02 based on my experience.

For Baccalaureate:

Seating inside Wait Chapel is limited and on a first-come basis. Tickets do not guarantee admission. Doors open at 9:45 a.m., but guests can expect to wait in line on Hearn Plaza before entering the Chapel. Graduates who process do not need tickets.

There is not a set time to tell you when to get in line.  I can tell you that in past years, people have first been in line at 8 or 8:30 am.  If this year works like all past years have, they will let parents in in 2 waves: the first one to fill the balcony and part of the lower level of Wait Chapel.  Then they shut the door and parents continue waiting in the line until we have seated all students and faculty who attend.

Once the students and faculty process into the chapel, they reopen the line and begin seating the remaining parents until the chapel is full.  In some years, everyone who wants to get in gets in, in other years, some are left in line.

Weather permitting, we stream the ceremony out onto the Quad – and to be perfectly honest, in some ways it would be my preference to sit on the Quad chairs and observe the ceremony there (you can get up and walk around, etc.)  There is no individual recognition of graduates (and they don’t get to sit with their families) so you aren’t really missing anything if you choose to view from outside.

For Commencement:

The Quad opens at 6 am.  Some families come as early as 6 or as late as 8:30.  Your arrival time is a matter of preference.

Generally speaking, the earlier you are there, the more likely you have your pick of seats – the later you arrive, the more limited are your choices.  My late father was a very much Type A guy and he came at 6 am with coffee and a newspaper and staked out seats.  Others come at 7 or 7:30 if they want to arrive later.  It is completely your call.

You cannot stake out seats the night before with signs or tape.  Those will be removed when staff arrive at 5 am to get the Quad ready.

Bring something to wipe off your seat – some paper towels, a washcloth from your hotel (return it of course).  The dew collects overnight on the folding chairs, and while we try to wipe off 10K+ chairs before the ceremony starts, it is not always possible to get every one.

It can be cool or hot, so layer appropriately.  Pay attention to the weather report so you know how to dress.

In terms of what to wear, you will see a wide variety of attire.  Many tend to dress nicely (suits or jackets for men, dresses or nice suits for ladies), others go with a more business casual approach, some do golf shirts and slacks, etc.  The key is layering to account for weather.

Sunscreen is a must.  You are sitting outside for around 3 hours.  Some wear hats, if they are especially sun sensitive.

Ladies ought not wear their best shoes.  The Quad grass is moist with dew and with 10K+ people walking on it, there will be patches that get worn down and muddy.  You would hate to ruin your best shoes that way.

If you have elderly relatives who have difficulty being in the sun or the heat, or have issues with mobility such that they don’t want to have to do a lot of walking, they can watch a livecast of the Commencement ceremony in Pugh Auditorium of the Benson University Center.  That is indoors, air conditioned, and with close access to restrooms.


Hope these are helpful tips as you get ready to celebrate your Deac’s big day!

— by Betsy Chapman

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